Trust Comes Before Laughs for GCU’s Improv Comedy Troupe
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
The comedy troupe that plays together, stays together.
Members of the two GCU student teams that will perform a show of improvisational comedy this week say their camaraderie is the real thing. They eat meals as a group, they’ve held a sleepover and they know one another’s deep, dark secrets.
Back at the start of the fall semester, when they first met, it wasn’t so one-for-all. It was more like a free-for-all.
“It was a little rough at the start,” admits Josh Vanderpoel, a College of Fine Arts and Production sophomore with extensive improv experience who captains the troupe, which will present its fall show, “Improv Your Life,” sponsored by GCU Today, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 9:30 p.m. Thursday in Ethington Theatre. Admission is free.
“It gets to the point that people stop looking for approval and really get into it,” says Vanderpoel, who attended an improv workshop in Los Angeles over the summer to hone his funny bone. “Bonding is more important than skills.”
The two teams, named Pair a Bulls (a play on “parables”) and Objects in the Mirror (sorry, can’t help you with that one), have both things going for them. Of the total of 13 students, seven are freshmen, although almost all of the actors had at least some improv experience before trying out.
They’ve been practicing at least three times a week for several weeks now, and each team will perform about a half-dozen games in a 90-minute show. These will include a dating game, “half life” (a lightning-fast way of telling a story), a rap duel called “Beastie rap,” and “open option” (a create-your-own-story exercise that starts with a relationship and a location).
All of the games hinge on audience suggestions — the more outlandish, the better — and challenge the performers to think on their feet and be funny at the same time.
“The audience creates the show,” Vanderpoel says.
If it looks like frenzied madness for those onstage, that’s because it is. But they’re as ready as they’ll ever be.
“Audiences say the most random things, and we have to use it anyway,” says freshman Becca Downs of Seattle.
“Now that we’re all so close, we want one another to succeed. We’re all friends now. It helps in improv when you know someone better.”
Junior Holly Nordquist of Phoenix credits Vanderpoel with developing trust among the players.
“He’s done a great job of emphasizing that we need to be close in real life,” says Nordquist, who wavered between theatre and nursing majors at GCU before following her passion and choosing theatre this year.
“The sleepover helped me the most to connect with people. It’s when we’re hanging out together that the walls come down.”
She vows that “Improv Your Life” won’t hold anything back.
“The audience will be pleasantly surprised,” she says. “We try to do the unexpected.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.